TOKYO: Throughout her open water career, Chantal Liew has faced doubts, obstacles and questions.
Why this sport? Why the sacrifice? Why the Olympics?
And in the shimmering waters of Tokyo Bay on a baking hot summer’s morning, she answered them once and for all.
Liew, Singapore’s first open water swimmer ever at the Olympics, could indeed compete at the highest level.
“They (the haters) can kiss my ass,” said Liew candidly to laughs from reporters.
“I hope it shuts them up and I hope it shuts up all the armchair critics in Singapore. It’s tough, what we do. Athletes don’t want to perform badly, we all want to come in here and perform our best. I’m happy that I did what I did today,” she said.
“Sometimes your best is not good enough ... but you live and you learn. At the end of the day, I love what I do, and I think all the athletes love what they do and nothing can take that away from us.”
On Wednesday (Aug 4), Liew finished 23rd in a field of 25 athletes in the women’s 10km marathon swimming event at Tokyo's Odaiba Marine Park.
Liew clocked a time of 2:08.17.9 in her debut outing at the Games.
Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha took gold, crossing the line in 1:59:30.8. Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands came in second, just 0.9 seconds behind, followed by the Australian Kareena Lee in third.
“So I think that preparation and help from SSI (Singapore Sports Institute) really paid off. It’s an amazing result for me and Mark (coach Marcus Cheah), because essentially we are like open water rookies and for the past year, we’ve had to figure things out a lot on our own,” she said.
“Some of these girls have been racing since London … That was almost ten years ago and I was 12 or 13 years old. So swimming against such an experienced field, being second or third youngest in the pack, I’m really, really happy with how things played out today and we can only go up from here.”
Cheah lauded Liew for her performance.
“I really couldn’t be happier for her, she put in the work, she has trained harder than she’s ever trained before in the whole entire time I was with her,” he said.
“It is a great result. A great result for her but Singapore as well … Props to her for really competing in this field and really pulling through.”
While Liew had previously said that the Tokyo Olympics would likely be her last race, this now remains to be seen.
Said Liew with a laugh: “I’m definitely thinking about that, but no comment for now.”
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